'Forum Oak Park' to take sides on village issues

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Oak Park politics has a new group, and new acronym, too.

Forum Oak Park, or ForOP, unveiled itself last week with a press release and letter addressed "To Our Fellow Oak Parkers."

The group sees itself not as a foil to the rising New Leadership Coalition (NLC) or the bruised Village Manager Association (VMA), but as filling a gap the political parties leave open.

"The intent is to be an organization that tries to affect public policy in between elections," said Jon Hale, one of 10 founding members. Slating candidates is "not currently anticipated," he said.

Further separating ForOP from the NLC/VMA fray is its scope: Forum Oak Park plans to address community-wide issues, not just those taken up by the village board. It will first decide major issues to focus on, then take up incarnations of those issues as they arise, Hale said.

An example: Because diversity will likely be a priority issue, ForOP would be more apt to take on discipline at Oak Park and River Forest High School than it would the stadium lights issue there.

Hale said the group plans to get involved in the Downtown Oak Park "superblock" issue.

The press release the group issued stated "public discussion [in Oak Park] too often fails to reflect the complexity of major issues, their interconnectedness, and the necessity of making difficult trade-offs when making decisions."

Hale said that the Smoke-Free Oak Park effort wasn't as cut-and-dried as either the Smoke-Free group or restaurateurs made it out to be. ForOP envisions being able to "help policy makers understand trade-offs," he said.

In statements, the group frequently pegs the limiting of scope of discussions to single-issue groups driven by self-interest. "We agreed that there needed to be at least one group of citizens who aren't motivated by self-interest or single issues but by its commitment to the entire village," Hale wrote in an e-mail to Wednesday Journal.

The NLC (then called the NLP) benefited from single-issue concerns during the last election, Hale said.

The group?#34;which has about two dozen members and is looking to grow?#34;came together on the "rational" approach to policy development and village-wide focus that was embodied in David Pope's independent campaign for village president, Hale said.

"I thought David really tried to tap into that," he said, and that there is "no place for his supporters to rally around" those ideas.

Hale used to serve with Pope on the village's Plan Commission, where two other founding members?#34;Colette Lueck and Penny Wallingford?#34;sit. He noted that ForOP was not looking to support Pope, but rather to be based on the ideas he espoused in his election.

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